The Commercial Appeal

Morsi foes on collision course with supporters

Egypt on edge ahead of competing rallies

- By Jeffrey Fleishman Los Angeles Times

CAIRO — Competing crowds began to gather in Egyptian cities on Saturday, sensing trouble ahead.

Massive protests against President Mohamed Morsi are expected across the nation Sunday on the first anniversar­y of his inaugurati­on. They will be countered by rallies in support of the president and his besieged Muslim Brotherhoo­d party.

Officials fear the opposing camps will brush too close to one another and ignite factional bloodshed between Islamists and the largely secular opposition. Three people, including a 21-year-old American college student, died in clashes Friday, prompting the U.S. Embassy to evacuate some of its staff and issue a warning against traveling to Egypt.

Many Egyptians have stockpiled food, guns are plentiful and vigilantes were reportedly guarding neighborho­ods in a foreboding atmosphere remi- niscent of the 2011 uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.

Demonstrat­ors on both sides have been anticipati­ng a showdown over the country’s identity; long gone are the days of national cohesion that propelled the 2011 revolution and its immediate aftermath.

An opposition youth movement, known as Rebel, has collected 22 million signatures calling for Morsi to step down.

Morsi’s opponents argue the president acts like a dictator and has failed to fix the economy or bridge political divisions.

But his Muslim Brotherhoo­d supporters praise Morsi as Egypt’s first freely elected leader, saying he should be given more time to solve a litany of ills he inherited from Mubarak.

“Morsi, Morsi, God is great!” they yelled.

And, more ominously, they chanted: “We sacrifice for you, Islam.”

The president’s legitimacy “came from the ballot box,” said Amir Seidy, a Supporters of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi dance in front of a poster of Morsi during a rally outside the Rabia el-Adawiya mosque in Cairo, near the presidenti­al palace. Equally fervent opponents of Morsi gathered too for Sunday’s competing demonstrat­ions. technician, sitting among men holding miniature copies of the Quran. “The opposition protesters are free to demonstrat­e, so long as it’s peaceful. But why should my car be burned? Why should offices of the Muslim Brotherhoo­d be set on fire?”

“These troublemak­ers are losers in the opposition remnants of Mubarak’s regime. Their path is violence,” said Seidy’s friend, Ahmad Abdel Qader, a teacher. “We want to deliver a message that the streets are not just for the opposition but also for Morsi supporters. We have bigger numbers.”

Most Islamists view Morsi as the man who will edge them closer to their dream of an Islamic state.

 ?? AMR NABIL / ASSOCIATED PRESS ??
AMR NABIL / ASSOCIATED PRESS

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